Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Amongst John McDonnell's supporters are a number of Trotskyists. That I can see, they have had no input into policy or the strategy of the campaign, but have been happy to get involved and help with organising and campaigning. I've been following the lively discussion about this today, and was pleased to discover that the new incarnation of the Militant Tendency are not involved because they've decided to set up their own party instead - good riddance.

Unlike people who want to re-enact the 1980's now in 2006 by focusing on the internal fights in the Labour Party, I don't think that it is a good idea to turn anyone away who is an effective campaigner and able to work with other members of the Labour Party in a comradely manner, and I know plenty of people who happen to be Trotskyists who are like that. If their analysis involves an end goal of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but along the way they help Labour win elections and get new people involved, then for the forseeable future that is fine, and they can shoot me or whatever at the appropriate moment of the class struggle.

Any left-wing challenger for the leadership has two very different groups of people that she or he needs to appeal to. One is to win back to Labour people who have become disaffected, and the other is people who are still Labour, but who would like to see a more left-wing leadership. There is inevitably a tension here, because people who have left Labour often think that anyone who is still involved must be a total Blairite and therefore resistant to hearing from a leftie Labour campaigner, and people who have worked hard and stayed loyal to Labour equally understandably resent being ignored by a candidate who seems more interested in courting people who deserted Labour.

Both groups are crucial to our success in the General Election - we need to win back people who have stopped voting Labour since 1997, while also not losing the support of the people whose hard work has kept Labour going in recent years. It is a difficult balance to keep, and the decision about how to relate to Trotskyists is a part of it.

One thing that I would be interested in is what people who might consider voting for John McDonnell, or who generally find that they are closer on policy issues to him than Gordon Brown, but aren't planning to vote for McDonnell, think about all this. What, specifically, would persuade you to vote for McDonnell - is the problem that you are not convinced that he could win a General Election, that his election would split the party, that he is under the thumb of the far left, that you don't like a particular policy that he has, or a combination of these and other things?


At 11:09 am , Anonymous pregethwr said...

It won't be McDonnell. Really it won't. I've seen canvass returns from within the Campaign group: he only get 3-4 nominations.

MPs decide who goes on the ballot, their over-riding consideration is what helps or hinders their re-election.

They won't let the Sun run 'Victory to the IRA/Al-Queda/whatever McDonnell barminess' stories for 2 months. Nor put McDonnell on the ITV news every night to explain his policies in the event global capital doesn't accept his glorious rule/whatever McDonnell barminess.

It may be Meacher. Depends on how damaging the '9/11 was an inside job' article in Guardian was.

Otherwise its a pretty bleak picture for the Labour left: who else is there?

At 12:27 pm , Blogger Pickles said...

I would never vote for John McDonnell.

My position is always that whoever wins the election gets my loyalty at least until they start to directly cause Labour to lose votes by their actions*.

There are only very few circumstances whereby I would actually go into oppositionalist mode almost immediately. (That wouldn't involved me engaging in the outrageously self indulgent oppositionalism that the hard left has engaged in since... well... since the Labour party sold out to a right-wing parliamentary leadership in about 1906.)

John McDonnell's current campaign is gearing me up to take an oppositional stance almost immediately. I have no problem with radical left wingers leading the Labour Party in principle - only in practice.

But what I do have a problem with, in principle, is people using mass political parties, through subterfuge, as vehicles for their revolutionary ideology.

The reason that revolutionaries are revolutionaries is that they don't believe that democracy can be the tool by which they achieve their ends. I believe that democracy *is* one of the ends I believe in.

To allow organisations like the AWL to subvert democracy in the way they routinely do in going about their day to day business is to concede ones ends before you've even started and is therefore a totally illegitimate short term tactic along the road to achieving ones ends - even if you think it possible to have your paths divide at some point in the future.

I believe that once you abandon democracy as an ideal (which the AWL and all genuine marxists do - lip service doesn't count) you abandon democratic socialism. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party

John McDonnel, in falling for the enthusiastic young yes people around him is signing a pact with the devil.

There are lots of enthusiastic young people who share Labour values. They don't work for the John McDonnel or his campaign. John had never met them because until he decided to run for leader he didn't give party renewal a moments though. Now that the AWL youth have come out of the woodwork he thinks it's him who has inspired all these young people to get involved. And he couldn't be more deluded - he hasn't inspired them by his rhetoric - he's tempted them back into the party by his credulity and manipulability.

To elect John Mcdonnell would be to hand control of the party to a cabal of people who simply don't share Labour values.

Whilst Mandelson, Hewitt, Clarke, Blair and Brown were all Labour party stalwarts in the dark days of Thatcher these people were attacking Labour, not the Tories. That says it all.

* not by their decisions - you're allowed to get decisions wrong when faced with an either/or one - i.e. go into Iraq or not. The final decision probably cost us votes but it's at least plausible that not doing so and being blown up by a dirty bomb would have cost us more. And it would have been wrong for that to happen for other reasons. I'm more talking about the "what is our priority for government this week - looking after poor people or nationalising something" judgements.

At 1:05 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst Mandelson, Hewitt, Clarke, Blair and Brown were all Labour party stalwarts in the dark days of Thatcher these people were attacking Labour, not the Tories. That says it all.

I don't see how it's even relevant. And I don't see how the people you listed can be considered "Labour party stalwarts" when they were, as you point out, attacking Labour rather than the Tories. If Kinnock and his circle had spent less time attacking their own party and more time attacking the government, we wouldn't have lost in 1992.

By the looks of it, McDonnell is going to be the only challenger to Brown, so the choice will be between a genuine Labour stalwart who happens to be supported by the likes of the AWL, and a moderate Tory who doesn't have any support outside of his close faction.

At 2:45 pm , Blogger Pickles said...

Don't deliberately misread things - it's the last refuge of the terminally incorrect.

I made the point that whilst Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Hewitt, Clarke, Mandelson et al were busy fighting the Tories the puppet masters of the young dupes who surround McDonnell were busy attacking Labour at the time of Labour's greatest need.

You can add the Millibands, Blunkett, et al to that list too.

Not to mention some of the more junior types, Woolas, Flint, J. Smith, Blears, etc etc etc.

The vast majority of this government were party stalwarts when it wasn't "New Labour" and were as loyal then as they are now.

The difference between them and these fairweather friends who surround McDonnell is clear. They only get involved when the party gives them space to subvert it's internal democracy and launch their petty crusades. When they can't they go off and form their own political parties (Socialist Alliance, Green Socialist or whatever it's called, etc etc etc).

At 7:36 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope its Meacher

At 8:26 pm , Blogger A soft socialist said...

I wouldn't vote for McDonnell because the country wouldn't elect a very left wing PM. This country just isn't that ideological. That said I will be loyal to whoever becomes labour leader, which is more than u can say for John McD.

At 2:31 am , Anonymous Gregg said...

I wouldn't vote for McDonnell because the country wouldn't elect a very left wing PM. This country just isn't that ideological.

It elected a very right-wing PM three times in a row, between 1979 and 1987.

If McDonnell became PM next year, and then had two or three years before the next election to show that the sky won't fall if a socialist is in Downing Street, do you think the British electorate might stray a little from the stereotype? And if it doesn't, at least we'll have had two or three years of productive Labour government, rather than more thumb-twiddling and managed decline. More pointedly, McDonnell is the only candidate committed to reversing the domestic policies the next leader must reverse if Labour is going to survive the next election, let alone win it.

At 4:52 pm , Blogger Mike said...

Quite so.

This discussion just reinforces my conviction that the future of Labour, at least in the medium term, lies in the Don Paskinis of the Party, or off a cliff.

At 7:55 am , Blogger Ms Melancholy said...

Apparently the tories now accept the significance of relative poverty (25 years after the Black report, commissioned by Thatch, was repressed for virtually proving the same.. Should we vote for such slow learners?). So perhaps we now have a return to consensus politics, except the consensus is so far to the right it would be unrecognisable to a time traveller from 1978. I am less interested in the future of the Labour party ( I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but will we notice the difference?) than I am in the future of a genuinely held political philosophy, informed political debate and respect for democratic, cabinet style government. I don't think McDonnell stands a cat in hell's chance, but anything that broadens the debate can only be a good thing.

At 3:37 pm , Blogger Jon Rogers said...

I think McDonnell will make it onto the ballot - and that he will probably be the only challenger to Brown. At which point the question asked in the post but not yet answered in the comments will become even more to the point...

(I don't think the debating point that one should not support John because he is supported by some people one doesn't like is a particularly good one btw pickles...)

At 6:05 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nor put McDonnell on the ITV news every night to explain his policies in the event global capital doesn't accept his glorious rule/whatever McDonnell barminess."

Saw him on BBC Sunday programme with Marr last month. Hutton was on the same programme and well, McDonnell looked less mad than John Hutton

At 1:24 pm , Blogger Pickles said...

I don't think not supporting JOhn Mcdonnell because certain other people are supporting him is a very strong argument either Jon.

I think running a mile from him because he's allowed these people influence within his campaign team and even employed some of them is.

At 5:29 pm , Blogger el tom said...

Dan, you are pretty dead on in a lot of ways.

Did the SYN email list inspire this, by any chance?

At 10:32 pm , Anonymous michael said...

Trot bashing, ho ho aren't we clever. Regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat that is a "dictatorship" through a combination of a workers political party and workers groups throughout the economy, so up yours. Do you really think that you can just pass a nice law ending capitalism? How does the labour party (now or in fact ever) plan to co-ordiante the transistion to socialism internatioanlly as would be required to limit the effects of a strike of foreign capital which could not be brought under state control? You have some odd ideas about socialism. Perhaps people wouldn't vote mcdonnell in a general election, but that is only due to the failure of the labour party, if indeed it is a socialist organisation, to properyl raise class consciousness by directing its efforts to explain the intractable faults and endless tyranny of whichever set of rich bullies is fashionable at any giveb time, to them and what can be done- and likewise co-ordinating this internatioanlly- thus a set of radical left governments, in sync with civil workers organisations, would only have to be elected once in order to act dramatially and unalterably, rather than just aping the tories and praying that reformism is this years new black with the public. Like i said, odd ideas about socialism.

At 10:53 pm , Anonymous michael said...

well, at least that what my commie friend bends my ear with...personally i dont know...he could be right, maybe not - anyone care to illuminate?

At 7:00 pm , Blogger Harry Barnes said...

I was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group for 17 years until I stood down at the last General Election. I am pressing for Peter Hain to stand for Leader and not for Deputy. See "Will the real Peter Hain please stand up?".
I know that he is unlikely to respond to this, but there is method in my madness. It allows me to argue for the mixture of principles and practices which what is left of the Labour Left needs to adopt.
It is miataken and counter productive for the Campaign Group to run a candidate. Just as similar efforts in pressing for Tony Benn (1988) and Ken Livingstone (1992) were. Although Tony's narrow miss in 1981 for Deputy Leader was a different matter.
I will argue all this out properly sometime on my blog.

At 8:02 am , Blogger Jackline said...

Hi Nice Blog .If your time is less valuable, then it is probably less worthwhile to web time clock .


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